Artyomov about (Artyomov’s) music

My Requiem is a musical monument to the tragic history of Russia. I tried to write music as lofty as the spirit of our people and as tragic as its life. (1989)

The Symphony of the Way is portion of my biography, it is an ongoing process. But one part of it – a symphony On the Threshold of a Bright World – has also become a reflection of life in Russia and the dramatic events that continue to take place there. This is completely unexpected, it was not one of my goals. (1990)

In some ways, my symphony On the Threshold of a Bright World continues the romantic spirit of the first symphony, The Way to Olympus, but with a metamorphosis of the romantic into the tragic. The lyric “hero” of the second symphony, like his native country Russia, has lost his God and is trying to find Him again. (1990)

Unlike its two predecessors in the cycle Symphony of the Way, each of which was cast in a single movement, the symphony Gentle Emanation consists of three movements, each of which reveals a very different character – in a kind of Lento, Allegro, Lento.

These three movements present the facets of one soul in its aspiration to overcome challenges or obstacles in its inner drama and find a way to the light.

The title, “Gentle Emanation”, is taken from the Book of Job in the Russian Bible. Neither the Hebrew nor the English Bible has such an expression in the corresponding passage; in the Russian Bible it refers to a moment preceding an the appearance of God. 

This Symphony in such case represents what might be called a “Waiting for God”; but it is different from Samuel Beckett’s play, for here we may sense that the Lord is coming in the next – and concluding – symphony of the cycle. (1992)

The Morning Star Arises is the fourth symphony of my tetralogy called Symphony of the Way. While the first of these, The Way to Olympus, is both active and Romantic, the second, On the Threshold of a Bright World, is tragic, the third – Gentle Emanation – is full of hope for finding the lyric hero’s God again, the last symphony The Morning Star Arises leads us to a feeling of the Eternal Life, full of peace, inexhaustibility and wholesomeness. (1993)

Culture is not a museum. Culture is what we are. We are not museums. New music means new experience – it opens new feelings, it opens one’s mind and consciousness. It’s one’s life. One needs to be alive, not a mummy. (1990)

Music is closer to religion than any other art. Music is closer to God. (1990)

Music is a mediator between God and the World.  (1989)

Sound (as music) is the last revelation of this world. Other means of expression (words, colour) only hint at it. (1993)

Int the beginning there was the sound and that sound was an incantation of spirits (“om”). 

The sound was magic. – And it became a prayer – a purifying power, serving for the enlightenment of the soul. – Now it is a message, a prayer, an incantation, – and the deepest vessel of  an experience. (1993)

In music – as in every separate life – “purpose” and “movement” are the same, one cannot say that any of these things is more important: every stair of “movement” is a purpose, so that many stairs make a movement of purposes to one main purpose which is the most important and final – catharsis.  (1993)

You can express only  yourself: your music is the evidence of you. If you would say that you are writing about the external world – this is not true, this can not be proved, because all that can be found in your music is only your sight at this world. Eventually your music speaks only about you, your experience, your intentions and aspirations.

Your self-expression without the spiritual aspirations is nothing.  (1993)

Life is mystical in its substance. Music in its best creations half-opens this mystery.

To see the secret sense of Being – that is what religion is. So that music is a mysterious and  religious thing. This is the act of religious cognition of the world.  (1993)

Religion is the mysterious chain connecting (religamen) us with Inconceivable, – that which is above us and to which we constantly appeal. The same is Music.  (1993) 

Music expresses mystery of soul life and through it – mystery of the universal Being. By means of individual creative soul mystery of the Creation, mystery of Being, mystery of the World Soul opens.  (1993)

Music is the quintessence of Being. (1994)

The true life conceals in itself beyond extreme. Music expresses mystery of beyond extreme, of true life – of Being. (1994)

Music without faith is dead.  (1994)

Penetrata – as a task – is not a genre, not a structure, but a manner of expression (which, of course, creates a form at long last) and the purpose (i.e. – penetration).  (1985)

Prophecy is the highest, i.e. the absolute knowledge.

Experience is the way to knowledge.

Poet (as a type) is a prophet: a Romantic on the surface, an expressionist in the middle, and a symbolist in the depth. His purpose is an ecstasy and revelation, trance and revelation, trance and catharsis.  (1989)

Music must be piercing. All shrouds have to be eliminated and the highest poignancy of experience achieved. Create by an exposed nerve!  (1994)

There are mutual attractions of sounds, accords, timbres, rhythms. Although a nature of this attraction is unknown, one can assume that it corresponds to a nature of physical and spiritual attractions, and all of them combine a single field of attractions.

In music attractions determine orientated development of melody, change of harmony, necessary movement or state.  (1989)

Music must not devastate – but fill the soul. This is approachable for only spiritually rich nature of its maker. (1989)

Every composition has to be a discovery.

Every new composition is a new stair of selfopening, selfmovement, selfperfection. 

Repetition is lack of an internal development, i.e. selfplagiarism. (1989)

Literature is multistratum, polysemantic. Word is multisignificant. But the most valuable was such One, that “was with God”: that  Word was “God”, – id est Incantation, sound, “aum”(“om”).

Music is monosignificant – also being polydynamic. Sound is absolute, it carries a monosemantic experience.  (1994)

Music does not  tolerate an exposition, retelling of an observation, or a commentary, a reflection of this observation, which is also an exposition. Music demands a revelation, a concentrate of an emotional experience.  (1994)

Music must be pithy. Its pithiness is in expression and strain. No sound without clear mood, fit, aspiration! (1994)

There is an element of game in every music. But its essence is not in game, but in the opening of  the last truth of Being.  (1994)

Appealing to God you display your the most sincere feelings, and your music can become a gift. Not every appealing to a man promises to become the same and to give birth to any value. But music always needs an internal strength, passion and beauty. (1994)  

Music created by mind serves for mind, composed by heart – goes to the heart. We have to  speak with heart.  (1995)

Music – as well as love – creates a new reality.  (1994) 

Music is a concentration of soul experience, self-existence, – but not a game. The same formal means (like texture) can serve to very different essences and targets.

But the sum of all expressive elements of the musical language determines the direction and the main point of music. (1994)

Music is not a sign, not a text, not a reflection of being. This is the only true way of cognition of sense of the existence.  (1990)

Music is perceived not only by ear but by the whole body, it penetrates the entire man which opens himself trustfully and devotedly to the music, – and all his structure is changing.

In a composition one needs to plunge intimately, come in with the whole one’s essence, with the whole heart, one needs to live in it, – and its influence will be beneficial.  (1990)

Culture – this is all that remains after a man’s stay on the Earth, this is the only value in the whole world, this is the attempt to understand – what is man. (1990)

Music is a mean of spiritual transfiguration of the world.  (1991)

Topography of soul is polyphonic. To open inner world for self  means to cognize self. To open with music and by music. (1991)

Title – is not an opening of essence of music, – but rather a cover. This is a reference, a hint  to only one property of that plural world which is presented by music.  (1991)

Finiteness of a personal being as well as impossibility  to achieve the Ideal in this life – these are the reasons of tragedy. The tragedy of somebody’s own being is becoming obsolete in creation. (1995)

Composer is a religious worker. He strives to approach  the Ideal through creation of such being which is music. Music is the most real being. (1995) 

If music is revelation this means – it is a gift. You sacrifice yourself it means you present wored with yourself. This is the self-overcoming. Revelation is connected with offering. This is a religious act.  (1995)

Man is a creator because he is created in the image and after the likeness of the Creator. (1995)

Man appeals to God. The most passionate and multiform, the most strong, deep and sincere appeal – through Music (musical appeal). This is energy of man sent to God as man’s reply to the effusion of the Divine energy.  (11.02.1996)

Music is an ecstasy, the liberation from the “final (limited)  consciousness” (Plotin), the way of inclusion in the Infinity. (1996)


Works for percussion

Totem and Incantations

I became interested in percussion instruments a long time ago. I have used them for the first time in the Northern Songs (1966) in which I employed a specially constructed for this work instrument called “campbello” which produced unusually gentle bell sounds. 

The appearance of Totem (1976) and after that of the other compositions for percussion is a result of the growth of the number of percussion ensembles and the birth of a new untraditional kind of music for percussion, a classical example of which would have to be the Edgar Varese’s Ionization for 37 instruments written in 1931. The example of this great master was always before me, for he really was the first contemporary composer to choose percussion as a medium for the expression of deep tragic experience.

Totem has three sections: the accelerating alternation of regular rhythms in the middle of the piece is set against the opening and closing episodes which are built on the shifting of sustained tremolando sounds. 69 instruments are used, of wood, leather and metal.

In Incantations (1979-81) it proved essential to fuse together the timbres of the voice and of the percussion, to bring them so close that the voice naturally arises from the sounds of percussion instruments. From this come all the whistling and hissing consonants in the soprano part and the support to that given by the voices of the percussionists.

The work has four movements: 1. Incantation of Fate – of Serpents; 2. Incantation of Stars – of Birds; 3. Incantation of Souls – of Wind; 4. Incantation of Sounds – of Fire. 

44 instruments are used, including two specially prepared cardboard drums – tamburi di cartone. 

The first complete performance of Incantations was given by Lidiya Davydova and the ensemble of Mark Pekarski on April, 3, 1981 at the Large Concert Hall in the Olympic Village in Moscow.

A Sonata of Meditations

It is a musical expression of the spiritual state of a human being aware of his responsibility to the world and absorbed in his daily round of meditations on the world’s beauty, on the profound significance of creation.

There are four meditation periods corresponding to the four times of a day: morning, afternoon, evening, midnight. The originality of the composition is in the fact that this intense mental work is expressed by percussion – in this one may see a connection with the traditional oriental music.

The group of instruments and a number of performers alters from piece to piece:

I. (one performer) – only metal: vibraphone, plates, campanelli, campane;

II. (two performers) – two groups of drums;

III.(three performers) – mixed group of wooden and metal: marimba, plates, maracas, gong, woodblocks, and a number of other rustling and ringing percussion;

IV.(four performers) – two marimbas, vibraphone, campanelli, accompanied with rhythmic impulses of bongos, castanets, maracas.

Sonata Ricercata

A compulsory composition written in 1978 to be performed by competitors participating in the All-Union Competition of wind instrument players and percussionists. Has been used as such until now. One performer.

Instruments: triangle, four cow bells, high-hat, four plates, gong, tamtam, marimba, temple blocks, tambourine, two bongos, side drum, four tomtoms, bass drum with pedal, timpano with pedal.

Chamber works

Variations: Nestling Antsali

The title is taken from a Madagascar folk tale. 

In this piece specific attention is paid to constructional problems. After a strict twelve-note theme played by flute there are five variations with different roles of flute and piano. Flute sets up a chain of barely contrasted variations of the theme, each new return acquiring new pitches which at first seem like melismata or ornamentation. At the same time the theme gradually loses its distinctive features, changes its rhythmic character, expands, is saturated to the point of becoming unrecognizable and, at the end – in the fifth variation, – unable to sustain this burden of notes, reverts to simplicity keeping its acquired pitches in view in passages of fioriture which stand outside the rhythm of the theme but prepare the appearance of its own pitch structure.

Such is the singly directed movement from the theme to the fifth variation in the flute part. At the same time the material and character of the piano part is quite independent from the flute one, changing in each variation, setting up each time a new character and condition for the constantly goal-oriented movement of the melodic line of flute, so that at each moment there is a flickering pulsing play with the characterization of the dynamic possibilities of each individual note. This separated collection of variations concludes with the most dramatic – the fifth.

The sixth and last variation presents the sharpest contrast. Here the pitches of the theme are expressed vertically, spread out over the whole range of flute and piano, all these pitches appearing at the same time, and in the process gathering  the harmonies on to a repeated rhythm. The last one itself expresses in augmentation all

those new sounds which had been established first in quite another way,  a kind of movement which leads to the full revelation of the rhythm, to its statement saturated with harmony, to its collapse and to the climax, where the improvisatory quality is the result of being set free from the strict rule of regular rhythm. A brief reminiscence of the theme serves to close this fraught process.  

In this way a strict compositional scheme is combined with the relatively free character of the piano part in the first four variations, with the limited improvisational possibilities of piano in the fifth variation and with the final improvisatory climax.

Romantic Capriccio

In line with its title – a composition of free form, preserving its integrity due to a natural joining of contrasting episodes and their repetition.

Written in memory of Jean Sibelius and includes – as allusions – brief echoes of some themes from his brilliant Violin Concerto composed 80 years ago.

Mattinate I,II

Any ensemble means harmony, unity.

In this case it is a rare unity, remarkable for unexpected timbre combinations: each instrument, like colour in painting, puts a timbre reflection of its own on the sounding of other instruments in the group.

On the whole guitar plays the role of a rhythmic mediator, sending  impulses stimulating the motion of chiefly melodic voices – those of violin and flute.

Both pieces, written in a complete freedom of motion, constant changeability, capriciousness in rhythm and tempo, have however, clear peaks of elevation and even – when major episodes are repeated – signs of the “form” in its school interpretation.

Mattinate (Morning Songs) are hymns of joyful soul, feeling its harmonious bond with Nature. They include – as ritornelli – short “songs” performed by soprano (behind a curtain) or flute and guitar.

Moonlight Dreams

A cantata for a baroque-like ensemble – soprano, alto flute, cello and piano. On the texts of the Chinese poets of the VII century (in English).

All four movements of the composition are sustained in contemplative mood and have one thing in common – the Shining of the Moon.

The composition demands accuracy, delicacy, refinement and synchronous breathing on the part of musicians.


 Orchestral works

Concert of the 13

The full title of this work is Concert of the Thirteen Wind, Piano and Percussion Players. It was written in 1967; duration – 13 minutes. The ensemble includes 2 flutes, oboe, 2 clarinets, bassoon, 2 trumpets, trombone, piano (plus celesta or glockenspiel) and percussion instruments (three players).

The work consists of four movements:

I. Andante – Allegro: in the nature of an overture 

II. Moderato: slow, featuring an oboe solo

III. Allegretto: a kind of scherzo

IV. Lento – Allegro: of the longest duration – a small piano concerto.

This concert is a sort of a game, a show in which the thirteen musicians compete with and complement one another in various combinations and groupings. It is a bright, picturesque and energetic piece. 

Concert of the 13 has been recorded three times: first in 1970 by Tallinn Radio with Konstantin Krimets, conductor and Aleksandr Rabinovich, pianist; again in Moscow in 1978 at the Large Hall of Moscow Conservatory by “Melodiya”, with Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, conductor and Piotr Meshchaninov, pianist; and later – in September of 1990 – at the same place by “Russian Disc”, with Virko Baley, conductor and Mykola Suk, pianist.

The first public performance took place in November of 1990 in Las Vegas, Nevada, with the same conductor and pianist.

Way to Olympus

Conceived and partially realized in 1978. It is a one-movement composition with a slow introduction. It conveys the idea of overcoming inertness and passivity for the sake of movement, an aspiration for perfection, for finding integrity of one’s inner development. The composition is an initial phase in this movement to be further elaborated in the next, also program works.

It was first performed partly on October 11, 1979, at the Large Hall of Moscow Conservatory by Moscow Symphony Orchestra conducted by Veronika Dudarova during  Moscow Autumn Festival. And a year later – in Warsaw during Warsaw Autumn Festival.

The entire composition was first performed on January 13, 1987, by the USSR State Orchestra with Timur Mynbayev, conductor.

The score was published in 1997 by “Kompozitor Publishers” in Moscow. This symphony is dedicated to a poetess Valeriya Lyubetskaya.

With three more symphonies some years later Way to Olympus formed a cycle with the common title Symphony of the Way.

V. Artyomov  (1985-1990,1998)